Laredo, Texas, which rests on the border of the United States and Mexico, is a unique location with a blended language, culture, and heritage. We’re fortunate to serve this community as we work to increase vaccine equity. In Laredo, there are approximately 259,512 residents. 95% of the residents identify as Latinx, and the majority of the region is bilingual. There is a high need for additional resources and determination by the county to fill those needs.
Of the patients we’ve served, 27% had no health insurance, 26% live below the poverty line, and 9% receive food stamps. Based on this data, residents in Laredo are even more vulnerable to the adverse effects of COVID-19 due to a lack of resources that affect well-being. In comparing Laredo to Texas as a whole, where 14.7% of the population resides below the poverty line and 17% of the population lacks health insurance, Laredo is prioritized as a region where vaccine equity can increase overall healthcare outcomes.
Establishing a vaccination site at Laredo required strong partnerships with the city, local police, and local fire departments. Our goal was to cater to Laredo’s residents to make the vaccination process as comfortable and convenient as possible.
Our community vaccination site opened on March 15, 2021, and since then, we’ve administered around 1,000 doses a day, which exceeded our initial goal of 800, and distributed over 16,000 vaccinations in total. We are at the Sames Auto Arena, an indoor location that is crucial as summer approaches and temperatures are spiking. To ensure safety, our staff is equipped with materials, including signage and pamphlets, in both English and Spanish, as well as being bilingual themselves. Laredo is a small, tight-knit community, and the majority of our sites are staffed locally. In addition to providing jobs, hiring locally ensures that patients feel comfortable and connected. Nurses and staff often stop to say hello to family, friends, and neighbors who come to receive vaccines.
“Being in Laredo is a different type of atmosphere — everyone is so humble and grateful. Most of our staff are young residents, and their care for their community shines through. We wanted them to have ownership of their work, so I told them: “This is your town, your people, you own this. Make this site something you think your community would want. I’ve been overwhelmed by their ability to make the process unique and tailored to the needs of their community.”
-Lydia Escobar, South Texas Vaccine Liaison
We have also made adjustments to build vaccine confidence. Two main reasons for hesitancy exist in Laredo: first, the prospect of being asked for identification, and second, the trouble with scheduling a second vaccine appointment. Our goal is to make vaccination easy and comfortable for all. Prior to arriving at the site, we make it clear through external communication that we will do our best to work with patients to make vaccines possible. If a state-issued ID is not available, staff will ask patients to show any document verifying their name and verbally confirm their date of birth. If no document is available, a verbal attestation for personal information would suffice. This ensures that safety protocols are followed for vaccine administration, and reduces the barrier for those who may feel discomfort or stress at the prospect of identification. To combat concerns around the second dose of the vaccine, we make the appointment process as easy as possible by helping patients register when they show up for their first appointment.
To ensure all eligible patients are informed about their options, we send our teams to remote and underserved areas along the border. We have also started conversations with people in community hubs, like local grocery stores. Seeing community members advocating for the vaccine helps reduce fear around the vaccine and citizenship status.
The majority of our community outreach efforts have been in collaboration with the City of Laredo, as we’ve utilized their community-based partners to convey the relevant information to anyone eligible. This includes advertisements on social media, local radio stations, and local television news. While the majority of our appointments are reserved online, we have walk-up options for those whom access to technology presents a barrier, especially older generations. We have people on site ready to assist anyone with booking an appointment or a second dose.
“Our team goes above and beyond to ensure the patient experience is valuable and heartfelt. One day, our site lead Lydia Escobar, a long-time social worker, encountered a mother who brought her disabled son to our site to be vaccinated. However, she lacked the proper documentation to be her son’s legal guardian after being turned away by different offices. Amidst everything going on, Lydia took the time in her day to ensure she had all of the proper forms filled out for her to register as a legal guardian, and connected her with all of the proper officials to finalize the process. This is just one example of how our staff sees themselves as members of the community, working together to achieve better overall health.”
-Luis Cruz, Vaccine Field Ops Representative
We are proud of the partnerships that we’ve built that have made this site’s launch successful. Through continued communication with local stakeholders, we’re working to earn the confidence of the people of Laredo.
“An important goal is take vaccines into neighborhoods; decentralizing access to vaccines ensures health equity while bridging the digital divide. We greatly appreciate the partnership ensuring our population is safe and healthy.”
-Richard Chamberlain, Health Director, City of Laredo
Moving forward, we will find new ways to better serve Laredo’s needs, and reaffirm our commitment to the diverse and vibrant communities on the border. By learning and adapting to regional-specific needs, we are breaking barriers to vaccine access, and helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Curative Inc. and its subsidiary, Curative Management Services LLC, engage with medical entities that provide vaccination services.